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What are the pros and cons of simulators for radiation safety training?

Written by Steven Pike, Argon Electronics

Electronic radiation simulators provide trainees with realistic first-hand experience of handling detector equipment that is identical to that which they will use in the field.

But while the use of simulator detectors can offer significant advantages for both student and instructor, as with any form of training method there may be some compromises.

In this blog post we explore some of the pros and the cons of radiation safety training using simulator detectors.

The Pros

Practicality

Ionizing radiation is a powerful, invisible force – which can make creating realistic scenarios a challenge.

By incorporating the use of simulator detectors into training exercises students have the opportunity to both understand and ‘trust’ the values displayed on their instruments.

In doing so they can also develop an understanding of the relationship between the measurements on their survey meter and their own personal dose readings as well as the effects of time, distance and shielding.

Safety

Safe and environmentally friendly radiation training systems can be used in a variety of scenarios – whether indoors, outdoors in confined areas or in public spaces.

With simulators incurring zero safety risk there are no Health & Safety restrictions – and the administrative burden for instructors is vastly reduced.

Immersion

Simulator detectors offer the opportunity for a truly authentic and immersive training experience.

Scenarios can be planned to replicate all the crucial elements of real-life incidents, which in turn exposes trainees to the psychological challenges they may well encounter in high-stress incidents.

Repeatability

With the use of simulators, radiation training exercises can be quickly and easily set up – and repeated as many times as required.

Outcomes

Powerful after action review (AAR) ensures that trainees have followed clearly set out procedures and that they understand when mistakes have been made.

Efficiency

Using simulators can provide some significant time-saving advantages for training exercises.

The costly and time-consuming administrative effort normally associated with the transport, deployment and safe handling of radionuclides is completely removed – and the need to secure specialist facilities where ionizing radiation sources is no longer an issue.

The cons

With any form of training, some compromises will inevitably have to be accepted. The key, however, is to find the happy medium between the optimum training outcome and what is practical and achievable.

Dynamic ranges

The dynamic ranges associated with radiation readings are extremely large, which can contribute to challenges in implementing simulations.

Instructor intensiveness

Simulation training can also be very instructor-intensive – with the trainer finding that too much of their attention is focused on creating the “effect” for their student and not enough on observing the student’s actions.

In these cases, alternative techniques which involve the temporary placement of a means to simulate the presence of radioactivity may be more practical – selection of the ideal simulation equipment is essential.

Shielding

It is the simulation of the effects of shielding where there is the potential for the greatest compromise.

The reality is that safe alternatives won’t be subjected to the same degree of attenuation (or reduction in force) as actual ionizing radiation.

But new technology now means that shielding can be represented to a realistic enough level to enable students to appreciate its importance for protection.

Instructors will of course need to clarify the differences, where appropriate, for the lesson being delivered – and these are likely to vary depending upon the operational responsibilities of the trainees.

While training with simulator detectors has both advantages and limitations, there is no doubt that it is an effective method of ensuring successful training outcomes while at the same time maintaining the safety of student and instructor.


About the Author

Steven Pike is the Founder and Managing Director of Argon Electronics, a leader in the development and manufacture of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) and hazardous material (HazMat) detector simulators. He is interested in liaising with CBRN professionals and detector manufacturers to develop training simulators as well as CBRN trainers and exercise planners to enhance their capability and improve the quality of CBRN and Hazmat training.

How does After Action Review benefit HazMat training?

Written by Steven Pike, Argon Electronics

Emergency response teams are constantly looking for ways to improve their operations.

Simulated exercises, training classes and seminars can all provide valuable insight into tactics and technologies that can be applied in real life HazMat incidents.

However unless feedback on incident response and command is recorded (and can be easily shared with personnel), a valuable learning opportunity can risk being lost.

An effective way to enhance learning outcomes is through the use of a post-incident critique or After Action Review (AAR).

An AAR is a structured means of analyzing what took place during a particular training exercise or event to identify strengths, weaknesses and areas for improvement.

As well as providing a method to scrutinize the actions that occurred, an AAR is also an opportunity to consider what could have been done differently – both by those who took part in the exercise and by those who were in charge.

The evolution of AAR

The origins of After Action Review can be found in the US military where formal AARs evolved out of the combat action debriefs that were carried out during World War Two and the Vietnam war.

The use of AAR in a military context has also been documented in the memoirs of Chinese military leader Gong Chu’s during the 1934-1938 three-year war in South China; and by Emperor Napolean’s Marshall’s and Generals in the early 19th century.

Military AARs fall into two types – formal AARs (which require detailed planning, preparation and resources) and informal AARs (which take the form of on-the-spot reviews of individual or group training performance).

Over the years, a wide variety of public health and emergency management agencies have recognized the value of AARs – using them within training programs to aid better understanding of the perspectives and expectations of all involved and to capture crucial learning that can be widely shared.

One potential challenge with any form of realistic HazMat training exercise is that much can be going on in a relatively short time-frame. When the exercise ends, participants can sometimes find that many of the events, and the associated learning opportunities, have become a “blur” in their minds.

A 2018 article in the online magazine FireEngineering.com discussed how taking a “stop-and-start” approach to full-scale HazMat training exercises can help to cement learning. By breaking up the scenario into several smaller sections with regular breaks for review, there is the opportunity to discuss what’s just happened, to explore alternative tactics, to quickly correct any misunderstandings and to enhance exercise efficiency.

In addition there is also the advantage of being able to ensure that departmental procedures and guidelines are being followed, and that they are modified when necessary.

The application of AAR in simulator detector technology

The integration of AAR capability into simulator detector technology has been shown to reveal important lessons that improve professional practice, minimize risk and enhance communication.

When we think about AAR in the context of a simulator detector, it is the technology within the device itself (rather than a human) that maintains a record of all the activity.

The simulator version of the LCD3.2 Chemical Hazard Detector (the LCD3.2e) is just one example of a device that keeps a record of all real-time trainee movement – from the initial set-up of the equipment through to the completion of the exercise.

Once the scenario has concluded, the instructor is able to easily switch the device to display a detailed (and indisputable) performance report.

AAR is a powerful and constructive way to obtain valuable knowledge that can improve processes and enhance training efficiency – be it in the form of constructive group discussion, via fact-finding exercises or by harnessing the intelligent technological capability of simulator detectors.

The process of regularly critiquing can serve as a powerful tool for understanding the impact of one’s actions and effecting change.

And by regularly comparing the “expected outcome” with what “actually happened”, adjustments and improvements can continually be made, to improve safety at both an individual and an organizational level.

About the Author

Steven Pike is the Founder and Managing Director of Argon Electronics, a leader in the development and manufacture of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) and hazardous material (HazMat) detector simulators. He is interested in liaising with CBRN professionals and detector manufacturers to develop training simulators as well as CBRN trainers and exercise planners to enhance their capability and improve the quality of CBRN and Hazmat training.

Tesla Fire Is A Reminder For Businesses Storing Hazardous Materials

Written by Dawn DeVroom, IDR Environmental Services

fire broke out on Saturday, February 17 at Tesla’s car plant in Fremont, California. This isn’t anything new, because we do hear about businesses that have fires from time to time.

But, what makes this fire different is that it happened in an area where the company stores some of its hazardous materials outside. And, because of this, Tesla was forced to call the local Fremont Fire Department and required a hazardous materials unit.

According to reports, Tesla has a history of fires at this facility. This includes a fire in their paint shop in April 2018 and another outdoor fire in August 2018.

Add to this, Tesla was already under investigation by Cal-OSHA cited in January and fined $29,000 for allegedly violating six different worker safety regulations in their general assembly 4 (GA4) production line.

According to the Silicon Valley Business Journal:

“Tesla allegedly didn’t obtain a building permit or inspect the tent for safety violations, train workers on how to get out of the building in an emergency, or protect themselves from heat illness. Cal-OSHA also claims the tent had exposed metal rods and rebar that workers could potentially impale themselves on, and failed to cover a hole in the floor that was 22 inches wide, 14 inches wide and 8 inches deep.”

Suffice it to say…this fire isn’t helping Tesla’s safety record with OSHA.

So, what can businesses who store hazardous materials do to avoid Tesla’s potential catastrophe with that fire. Here are some very important things you should do.

Store Hazardous Waste In Proper Containers

storing hazardous materials

As a hazardous waste generator, you must satisfy safety, environmental and regulatory guidelines and have a solid base of knowledge and experience in using and handling hazardous materials in your facility.

Using the right storage containers for different types of hazardous waste is the key to safety and compliance. All hazardous waste generators must insure that their containers are built to specification according to the most current codes and regulations.

Following is a list of the different types of hazardous waste storage containers according to the Environmental Protection Agency website.   

  • Containers – portable device in which hazardous waste is stored, transported, or otherwise handled.
  • Tanks – stationary device of man-made materials used to store hazardous waste, either open or closed.
  • Drip Pads – wood drying structure used by the pressure treated wood industry to collect excess wood preservative and drippings.
  • Containment Buildings – completely enclosed self-supporting structures used to store or treat non-containerized hazardous waste.
  • Waste Piles – open, uncovered pile used for treating or storing hazardous waste.
  • Surface Impoundments – a natural topographical depression, man-made excavation or diked area such as a holding pond, storage pit or settling lagoon.

Proper storage and disposal requires you to understand which materials are toxic, what they do, the types of containers needed for storing the material and the type of personal protective equipment (PPE) that must be used.

You can learn more about which container is right for you waste by reading our article, How To Choose The Right Hazardous Waste Storage Container.

Label Hazardous Waste Correctly

Identification of properties and the regulatory status of waste that you generate is vital in maintaining compliance with state and federal regulations.

Hazardous waste generators that accumulate hazardous waste on-site in containers must be aware of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulations regarding the proper labeling, marking and placarding requirements for hazardous waste containers.

The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) provides the following guidance for the proper labeling requirements for California hazardous waste generators as outlined in Title 22, California Code of Regulations (Cal. Code Regs.):

  • Date – The date upon which each period of accumulation begins must be clearly marked and visible for inspection on each accumulation unit.
  • Hazardous Waste Notice – Each generator tank or container must be labeled or clearly marked with the words, “Hazardous Waste”.
  • Name and Address – Name and address of the generator.
  • Composition and State – Chemical composition (chemicals in the waste) and physical state of the waste (e.g. solid, liquid, etc.)
  • Properties of Waste – Statement or statements that call attention to the particular hazardous properties of the waste (e.g. flammable, reactive, etc.)
  • Accumulation Dates – If waste is collected or consolidated in containers or tanks, the initial date of the accumulation must be marked, as well as the “90-day or 180-day period” dates, whichever applies to your company. If waste from an older container is added, the initial accumulation date will need to be changed.
  • Recurring Waste Labels – “Recurring use” labels may be used on containers where same waste streams are initially collected and emptied into larger accumulation containers. The labels can revise the initial accumulation and “90-day period” dates (without having to change the other labeling information). If the container is emptied at least once each day, the word “daily” may be used in the date area of the label. 

You can learn more in our article, How To Properly Label Hazardous Waste Containers.

Prepare a Hazardous Waste Contingency Plan

According to federal and state regulations, every hazardous waste generator is required to have an emergency contingency plan. This plan outlines the company’s program to minimize hazards to human health and the environment from fires, explosions or an unplanned sudden release of a hazardous waste.

Failure to implement a plan can lead to hefty fines with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Your Hazardous Waste Contingency Plan should include:

Small Quantity Generators (SQG’s)

  • Designate an emergency coordinator and post contact information
  • Post the location of emergency equipment
  • Post emergency telephones
  • Ensure employees are familiar with emergency procedures

Contingency Plan Requirements for Large Quantity Generators (LQG’s)

  • Create a written plan on-site and make sure the it is up-to-date and reviewed frequently
  • Designate an emergency coordinator(s) and post contact information
  • Post the location of emergency equipment
  • Post emergency telephones
  • Create an emergency evacuation plan
  • Ensure employees are familiar with emergency procedures
  • List name, address and phone number (s) (home and office) for designated emergency coordinator
  • Submit written plan to local authorities

You must maintain at least one copy of the contingency plan at the facility, but multiple copies is even better. In addition, copies must be submitted to local police departments, fire departments, hospitals, and state and local emergency response teams that may provide emergency services to the facility.

Even if a facility will be providing its own responders, the contingency plan should still be sent to appropriate authorities in the local community in case of an off-site release or major emergency that requires their assistance.

You can read more about how not having a hazardous waste contingency plan affected another company in our article, No Hazardous Waste Contingency Plan Leads To Big Fine For Manufacturer.

Consider a HazMat Emergency Response Team

storing hazardous materials

The risks of working with hazardous substances and generating hazardous waste are great, and the consequences of a release, fire or spill can be dire.

Many companies choose to outsource their emergency response as an alternative to training, equipping and maintaining an emergency response team in-house. And, some companies will have more than one company at their disposal to ensure availability when an event occurs.

Emergency response companies have a fully-staffed, fully-trained hazmat emergency response team that are available 24 hours a day, 365 days per year.

It is important to establish a relationship in advance to allow for fast response times, with experienced supervisors who coordinate with all responsible agencies (such as local fire and rescue) to limit liability and costs.

Whether you need to control a situation or stop a potentially dangerous one, having an outside HazMat emergency response team provides the following benefits:

  • Save Lives
  • Protect Property
  • Preserve the environment
  • Limit Liability

You can learn more about using a HazMat emergency response team in our article, What A HazMat Emergency Response Team Can Do For Your Business.

Final Thoughts

Tesla serves as an example of what could happen to companies that use, generate and require storage of hazardous materials. Although nothing serious happened in Tesla’s recent fire, it could be much worse for your company if you don’t have the above procedures in place.

If you need assistance with putting together your program, contact a hazardous materials company that specializes in helping companies create and maintain their program.


About the Author

Dawn DeVroom is the CFO at IDR Environmental Services based in California. The company specializes in hazardous waste disposal.

What are the core requirements of wide area CBRNe training?

Written by Steven Pike, Argon Electronics

When you are required to conduct wide area emergency preparedness training – be it in the setting of a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive (CBRNe) school, a dedicated military center or an industrial facility – the ongoing challenge for any CBRNe instructor is to be able to create a scenario that is realistic, safe, reliable and cost effective.

Trainees need to be equipped with the practical knowledge and skills to respond with confidence to an enormous variety of potential live incidents. And each threat brings with it a unique set of practical, physical and psychological tasks that need to be ‘experienced’ in order to be understood.

So what is the recommended approach to help instructors implement a realistic but safe CBRNe training environment?

Overcoming regulatory obstacles

While the spreading of chemical simulants can still occasionally be an option, strict environmental regulations generally make it unfeasible – and the use of any form of radiological source is almost always going to be unrealistic for all but the most high specialized of training facilities.

Simulant training also brings with it the problem of being very location-dependent, which restricts the ability to create scenarios in public settings or confined spaces. And there is the added difficulty of it not being able to be readily integrate simulant training with other conventional live training methods.

Wide-area instrumented training systems

When the highest degree of realism is required, a powerful modular exercise control system such as PlumeSIM enable instructors to take their CBRNe training exercises to an entirely new level. And it especially comes into its own in the context of counter terrorism scenarios, nuclear training drills and HazMat emergency exercises.

So what benefits does the PlumeSIM training system offer?

Portability – Plume-SIM is highly portable making it quick to set up and to use in any environment. The inclusion of a planning mode also means that instructors can easily prepare exercises on a laptop or PC without the need for any form of system hardware.

Realism – Students are equipped with simulators and GPS enabled players, to enable them to take part in large area exercises that can include sequential multi-threat releases or that integrate with third-party live training systems.

Instructor control – The instructor retains complete control of the exercise including the ability to decide the type, quantity, location and nature of the source.

Environment – Specific environmental conditions can also be easily defined by the user, including temperature and changes in wind direction.

Repeatability – The Plume-SIM’s exercise parameters can be saved so the identical scenario can be repeated as many times as required.

Real-time action -The trainees’ movements, progress and instrument usage can be monitored in real time from a central control station.

After action review – The recording of student activity in real-time provides useful after action review (AAR). This can be used to encourage discussions about the effectiveness of an exercise and to facilitate further improvements.

Data capture – All recorded exercise data can also be exported and emailed to external personnel for future analysis.

Pre-exercise capability – The table-top planning mode uses standard gamepad controllers which enables trainees to undertake pre-exercise practice to take place within the classroom environment. The exercise can also be recorded and analysed prior to heading for the live field training area.

Versatility – If environmental conditions preclude the ability to obtain or maintain continuous long-range radio communication then the scenario can be pre-loaded on the player unit for timed activation.

Compatibility – The Plume-SIM system is compatible with a wide variety of simulator equipment including the M4 JCAD-SIMCAMSIMAP2C-SIMAP4C-SIMRDS200-SIMEPD-Mk2-SIMAN/PDR-77-/VDR-2 and RDS100-SIM.

Room to grow – The modular system gives instructors the flexibility to expand their range of training equipment as and when their budgets allow.

Achieving the highest level of realism in CBRNe training is paramount – and assuring personnel safety will always be key.

A flexible, modular simulator-based training solution such as the PlumeSIM system can provide trainees with the opportunity to practice and perfect their response to a wide variety of highly-realistic simulated threats in a completely safe environment.


About the Author

Steven Pike is the Founder and Managing Director of Argon Electronics, a leader in the development and manufacture of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) and hazardous material (HazMat) detector simulators. He is interested in liaising with CBRN professionals and detector manufacturers to develop training simulators as well as CBRN trainers and exercise planners to enhance their capability and improve the quality of CBRN and Hazmat training.

Observations from a CBRNe training consolidation exercise

by Steven Pike , Argon Electronics

While accidental or deliberate chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosives (CBRNe) incidents are still widely considered to be fairly low probability events, their impact on citizens, society and infrastructure can be immense.

If and when they do occur, the speed of response has been shown to be absolutely critical when it comes to taking charge of the scene, avoiding further contamination and saving lives.

Research published by the ORCHIDS (Optimisation Through Research of Chemical Incident Contamination Systems) project provides quantitative evidence of the recommended techniques for handling potential contaminants or scenarios that will require emergency mass casualty decontamination.

Amongst its findings are:

  • The importance of swift evacuation, disrobing and decontamination – ideally within 15 minutes
  • Ensuring the safety of first responders by the carrying out of ongoing hazard assessments throughout the incident
  • The importance of clear communication to casualties or bystanders throughout the response in order to foster trust and confidence in the activities
  • Effective situation reporting from the scene to enable all agencies to retain shared situational awareness

The knowledge, skills and experience of those charged with CBRNe instruction is paramount in ensuring that the best possible training is provided to those emergency response personnel tasked with responding to hazardous incidents.

But finding innovative ways to create realistic CBRNe training – in a manner that accurately depicts the reality of modern threats, and that replicates the array of sophisticated detector equipment available – can present a very real challenge for instructors.

One of the biggest obstacles is undoubtedly time. Training exercises, by necessity, often need to take place within tight timeframes. While an actual search and survey mission may take many hours to complete, an exercise may need to be truncated to a matter of minutes. 

Having had the opportunity to observe a wide variety of CBRNe scenarios and consolidation exercises over the years, a few key factors have become especially apparent when it comes to the efficacy both of the training and the training environment.

The value of hands-on experience

Classroom learning undoubtedly has its place, but providing trainees with the opportunity to handle actual detector equipment, or replica simulator detectors, in life-like scenarios is key to their understanding.

And, as we have discussed in previous blog posts on the subject, the more realistic the scenario the better the outcomes both for the trainee and the instructor.

Having confidence in your equipment

In the early stages of an incident it may sometimes be difficult for a first responder to establish that a CBRNe incident has even occurred.

In some cases there may be visual indicators, odd smells or tastes, or obvious physical symptoms which provide a clue to the presence of a threat.

But while hazardous chemical releases are often (but not always) accompanied by a more rapid onset of symptoms, radiological or biological releases may not become apparent for minutes or even hours after the initial event.

These factors mean it is all the more important that trainees have confidence in their personal protective equipment (PPE), confidence in use of their detectors and confidence in the readings that they obtain.

With that said, participants don’t always get to spend a huge amount of time handling the equipment, which means ease of use and simplicity of operation are extremely important factors.

Managing the challenges of PPE

Something that becomes immediately apparent once trainees don their PPE equipment is just how much their visual, verbal, auditory and manual capacity is affected.

The sense of psychological isolation, anxiety and/or feelings of claustrophobia are also very real issues. And it is up to the trainee to be able to manage these physical and psychological challenges, whilst staying focused on the task at hand and ensuring they deliver accurate information to those up the chain of command.

Having access to, experience of (and confidence in) their detector equipment is a critical element of effective CBRNe response.

Even when working within tight time constraints, an observance of methodical scene management will be critical to ensuring that emergency responders are able to work in a controlled environment, that risk to themselves and the public is minimised, and that any potential crime scene is protected.

______________________________________________

About the Author

Steven Pike is the Founder and Managing Director of Argon Electronics, a leader in the development and manufacture of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) and hazardous material (HazMat) detector simulators. 
He is interested in liaising with CBRN professionals and detector manufacturers to develop training simulators as well as CBRN trainers and exercise planners to enhance their capability and improve the quality of CBRN and Hazmat training.

What is the best HazMat training method to keep first responders safe

by Steven Pike, Argon Electronics

While regulations exist to guide HazMat training requirements for first  responders, the reality is that many personnel still don’t consider themselves to be adequately skilled in the use of their equipment.

Sometimes it’s because there simply isn’t enough time to carry out regular and structured training programmes. Sometimes this lack of preparedness comes as the result of budget cuts where training is one of the first things to go.

So says, independent CBRN consultant and subject matter expert, Debra Robinson in a white paper she has written which explores the subject of keeping first responders safe.

As Debra explains, it’s not enough for a department to simply purchase a full array of safety and monitoring equipment.

“Responders
need to be thoroughly knowledgeable about the capabilities, limitations and
applications and be proficient in the use of each piece of equipment, and that
takes a great deal of training,” she says.

It would seem too that smaller fire departments are often the ones losing out, with many volunteers not always being crystal clear on what their training requirements even entail. 

“Large city or larger communities with paid fire departments are far better off than the smaller departments. Some 70-80% of fire departments across the United States are manned by volunteers and many struggle to find volunteers to provide the services, let alone complete the requisite training,” she says.

For those departments that do have training coordinators and solid programs in place,there is still the challenge of trying to deliver equipment training that provides the most realistic learning experience possible whilst also guaranteeing personnel safety.

As Debra points out,the equipment that is used to detect, identify and measure hazardous materials can often involve significant risk, even in the presumed safety of a training environment.

Some trainers may still defer to more traditional HazMat training methods – such as the use of powerful simulants that closely mimic the properties of chemical materials. But many of these simulants can be hazardous in their own right,even in the smallest and most controlled of quantities.

In recent years, Debra explains, there’s been more of a move towards the use of training simulators which rely on specific frequencies and technologies to replicate the effects of actual, chemical, radiological and biological materials.

Says Debra: “The obvious benefit is the simulators greatly reduce the risks associated with the use of live agents. Used properly, they can be a valuable training tool and can provide for a much more realistic training environment.”

Simulators have developed a strong reputation for their abilities to facilitate hands-on training that can simply not be achieved with live agent training methods. Live agents by their nature carry an extreme level of inherent risk – something that is eliminated through the use of simulator equipment.

As Debra highlights, having the opportunity for some “serious hands-on time with the equipment” is another major plus for trainees, where repetition is the key to successful learning.

And there are also tangible benefits to be gained for a department’s bottom-line, she says, with the return on investment (ROI) being clearly evident in fewer operator errors,as well as “reduced damage to detectors, avoidance of simulant and source related administration etc. and perhaps even lower insurance premiums.”

As Debra argues, it can be easy for political or government leaders to dismiss the need for investment in CBRNe and HazMat training – and particularly when budgets are tight. Bu the risk to communities from chemical, biological or radiological threat is very real. While this may come in the form of terrorist threats, there is also the much greater risk of hazardous materials that exist in our communities’industrial plants, hospitals and businesses.

As Debra concludes:”Ultimately, the decision-point and justification is quite simple. Are you willing to accept the risks associated with under-qualified personnel and insufficient training and capabilities, or should you consider moving toward ensuring you have sufficiently trained, equipped and qualified personnel to respond to the hazards that exist in the community?”

Debra Robinson is founder of 2o8 Consulting & Solutions, based in Lincoln, Nebraska. She provides consulting and SME services in chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) and Emergency Management preparedness across a diverse range of platforms and industries.

This article was first published in Argon Electronics website.

About the Author

Steven Pike is the Founder and Managing Director of Argon Electronics, a world leader in the development and manufacture of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) and hazardous material (HazMat) detector simulators.

Chemical hazard training using Simulator Detectors

by Steven Pike, Argon Electronics

The ability to deliver consistent, engaging and true-to-life chemical hazard detection training scenarios relies on regular access to realistic, hands-on equipment.

What’s vital is that these training tools replicate not only the readings and the responsiveness of real detectors, but that they also provide trainees with an authentic experience that recreates the potential challenges that they will face in actual incidents.

Training for CBRNe and HazMat threats

Planning exercises for modern-day CBRNe and HazMat threats has never been more complex, with the need to respond to anything from clandestine laboratory searches to major industrial incidents, chemical improvised explosive devices or terrorist threats.

And key to the success of any training scenario is the capacity for instructors to be able to create compelling training experiences that are straight-forward to set up and easy to repeat.

While training with Live Agents (LAT) can still have a role to play, it introduces a substantial degree of risk to instructors, students, their equipment and the environment – not to mention incurring greater cost, increased administrative effort and a heavier regulatory burden.

Simulant training is often viewed as presenting a safer “middle ground” for CBRNe and HazMat exercises, bringing with it the advantages of a more credible, real-life experience but at the same time reducing risk through the use of smaller, controlled quantities of substances.

But even in the most carefully managed of exercises, the use of simulants brings with it certain disadvantages. It can often restrict the breadth and variety of scenarios – for example, when they are required to be used in confined spaces, or where wind, temperature or training location can impact negatively on the learning experience.

It is also increasingly common for modern detectors to provide limited response to simulant sources, due to their highly developed interference rejection (IR) capabilities.

The good news though is that safe, high-quality and easily repeatable CBRNe/HazMat training needn’t be so complicated.

Simulator detectors for CBRNe and HazMat training

One solution that has revolutionized modern approaches to chemical detection training is the adoption of innovative and safe detector training aids that replicate the functionality of real devices.

These intelligent, electronic training tools place instructors in control, they are environmentally friendly, they can be set up in an unlimited variety of indoor and outdoor locations and they offer powerful after action review features.

Let’s now take a closer look at one specific example of a chemical hazard detector – the Smiths Detection LCD3.3 – and its simulator equivalent – the LCD3.3-SIM, also known in the USA as the M4A1 JCAD and M4A1 JCAD-SIM respectively.

The Smiths Detection LCD3.3

The Smiths Detection LCD3.3 is a person-worn device which is reported to be the most widely deployed chemical detector in use today.

It is used for the detection of Chemical Warfare Agents (CWAs) – including nerve, blood, blister and choking agents – as well as for the identification of a selected library of Toxic Industrial Chemicals(TICs). The detector also incorporates different operating modes ensuring optimal detection capability.

The detector is simple to operate, requires no calibration or routine maintenance and can log up to 72 hours of mission data for further analysis while user replaceable sieve packs reduce the need for factory based overhaul. A key benefit of this detector is its ability to specifically identify CWAs, however this advanced selectivity and makes simulant based training challenging.

The Argon LCD3.3-SIM

The LCD3.3-SIM is a training device that has been designed replicate the features and functionality of the actual LCD3.3.

The simulation detector responds to electronic sources that imitate the effects of chemical vapors, toxic substances and false positives and that realistically replicate the effects of wind direction and temperature, the depletion of sieve packs and batteries, confidence testing and the use of a survey nozzle.

With no requirement for simulants as part of training, there is zero possibility of environmental contamination or health and safety risk to instructors or students.

The device is compatible with a wide variety of other simulators (including simulators for the AP2C, AP4C, CAM, LCD3.2 and the RAID-M100) which means that multi-detector and multi-substance training can take place within the same scenario.

The inclusion of a remote control feature provides CBRNe and HazMat instructors with complete management of the exercise – from deciding on the effectiveness of decontamination drills, to simulating the effects of wind, temperature and persistency and the ability to instantly reset a scenario in readiness for a new exercise.

After Action Review (AAR) enables instructors to confirm that their students have set up and used the detector in accordance with the procedures for the real-life device. In the event of student error, the student performance reporting feature provides a detailed breakdown of their actions to assist with learning.

The use of innovative simulator detector training systems significantly increases personnel safety, as well as enhancing learning and easing regulatory pressures.

Such devices also place the instructor firmly in control of the exercise to ensure you’re delivering consistent, verifiable and measurable CBRNe/HazMat training outcomes.

This article was first published as a blog on the Argon Electronics website.

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About the Author

Steven Pike is the Founder and Managing Director of Argon Electronics, a world leader in the development and manufacture of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) and hazardous material (HazMat) detector simulators.

HAZMAT Training – Precautions to Consider

By Ryan Henry, HazSim

Training is an essential priority for any subject that we wish to become proficient in. The HAZMAT training field is no exception to this. However, due to the serious and strenuous nature of HAZMAT response, it is important to safely execute training in a way that doesn’t damage our gear or our health.

Often times one of the most costly things we can do to our response gear is ruining it while in training, rendering it useless during an actual event. Ripping and tearing your issued PPE during a training that, let’s face it could have been planned better, hurts no one but our own members. From bunker gear scraping across a concrete truck bay to a plastic CPC being torn from an ultra-impossible scenario that our training officer threw together can become costly and wasteful.

I may strike a nerve with this one, so prepare yourself now. I feel that most chemicals we commonly deal with as HAZMAT responders can be mimicked with much safer alternatives – rather than using the real things. Many times training facilities or classes boast the fact that live agents are used, and this peaks much interest for the student.

Degrading our PPE for the sake of real meter readings and visual cues is a costly degradation to bestow upon gear that you will decon and possibly re-don in the near future and assume it will protect you adequately. Visual cues are able to be exaggerated, and meter readings manipulated without exposing your gear, and potentially yourself, to harmful materials that every day becomes part of a long list of carcinogens.

Another consideration during training is that of your gas detection equipment. It is no secret that gas detection equipment can be very costly, and sometimes hard to replace. While learning how to use and interpret your detectors efficiently is imperative; a mistake while training could render some out of service for quite some time. We are always looking for ways to make detection more realistic, whether through cross sensitivity or simulation. Sometimes, however, an overzealous approach to making meter equipment respond to atmospheric stimuli – can end up costing us in burned sensors, and possible damage to our front line equipment. Simulation is the future of training, and gas detection is no exception to this.

Time and time again, especially in this glorious age of the internet we are in, we are bombarded with self-proclaimed subject matter experts, who claim their tactics are the only way, or that their way of approaching specific problems is pretty much be all end all. Sifting through these mirages and other facades can prevent us from potentially wasting time, or not being open to other ways of thought about particular subjects.

These statements are true not only for HAZMAT, but fire, and pretty much any other subject if you look hard enough only. It’s great to try new tactics, and store them in your toolbox for the next time the alarm goes off, however, keep an open mind. While I love my leather helmet, I am very open to the possibility that technology may be to the point where I need to hang it on a wall and choose safety over looks.

In closing, training in a necessity for all of us no matter what industry we are in. From oil and gas to emergency response, staying up to date on our skills and tactics is a must if we are to remain successful. Keep an open mind, and protect your equipment. These are the biggest keys to remember while training. Or you may find yourself with an expensive bill, and a rookie who really didn’t learn anything.

This article was first published on the Hazsim website.

 

 

 

Transport Canada publishes quick reference guide for first responders

As part of the Government of Canada’s ongoing commitment to providing first responders and emergency planners with the tools and resources they need to respond to a dangerous goods emergency, Transport Canada convened a meeting of the Steering Committee on First Responder Training today.

The meeting brought together stakeholders and government representatives to help steer the development of a national training curriculum for personnel who respond to railway incidents involving the transportation of dangerous goods.

At the meeting, Transport Canada announced the publication of a quick reference guide, You’re Not Alone!, which is designed to help first responders at the scene of an incident involving flammable liquids.  The guide outlines important safety measures and groups them into five steps as part of emergency planning.

The guide was added to Safety Awareness Kits published by Transport Canada in 2017 and is aimed at first responders and communities.

Transport Canada published these kits and the quick reference guide to raise community awareness of existing available resources on dangerous goods.

The Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, in a statement said: “Communities and first responders need to know that if a dangerous goods incident occurs, they’re not alone, and there are resources available to help. The safe transportation of dangerous goods by rail remains one of my top priorities.  We all share a common goal of making sure everyone is prepared for a dangerous goods emergency and the ‘You’re Not Alone!’ quick reference guide is an important piece of that preparation.”

The reference guide can be accessed here.

U.S.: FEMA Releases Refreshed National Incident Management System Doctrine

The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently released the refreshed National Incident Management System (NIMS) doctrine.  NIMS provides a common, nationwide approach to enable the whole community to work together to manage all threats and hazards. NIMS applies to all incidents, regardless of cause, size, location, or complexity.

In April and May 2016, FEMA held a 30-day National Engagement Period, in which stakeholders submitted nearly 3,000 comments and provided feedback on the draft NIMS update, ensuring that it reflects the collective expertise and experience of the whole community.

FEMA will host a series of 60-minute webinars with stakeholders to discuss the updates in the refreshed NIMS and answer questions related to NIMS. All webinars are open to the whole community. For webinar dates, times, and registration information, please go here: https://www.fema.gov/latest-news-updates.

The refreshed NIMS retains key concepts and principles from the 2004 and 2008 versions, while incorporating lessons learned from exercises and real-world incidents, best practices, and changes in national policy.

Download the refreshed NIMS here: www.fema.gov/nims-doctrine-supporting-guides-tools

The refreshed NIMS:

  • Retains key concepts and principles of the 2004 and 2008 versions of NIMS;
  • Reflects and incorporates policy updates and lessons learned from exercises and real-incidents;
  • Clarifies the processes and terminology for qualifying, certifying, and credentialing incident personnel, building  a foundation for the development of a national qualification system;
  • Clarifies that NIMS is more than just the Incident Command System (ICS) and that it applies to all incident personnel, from the incident command post to the National Response Coordination Center;
  • Describes common functions and terminology for staff in Emergency Operations Centers (EOC), while remaining flexible to allow for differing missions, authorities, and resources of EOCs across the nation; and
  • Explains the relationship among ICS, EOCs, and senior leaders/policy groups.

NIMS guides all levels of government, nongovernmental organizations (NGO), and the private sector to work together to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from incidents. NIMS provides stakeholders across the whole community with the shared vocabulary, systems, and processes to successfully deliver the capabilities described in the National Preparedness System. NIMS defines operational systems, including the Incident Command System (ICS), Emergency Operations Center (EOC) structures, and Multiagency Coordination Groups (MAC Groups) that guide how personnel work together during incidents. NIMS applies to all incidents, from traffic accidents to major disasters.

Please refer to the descriptions below to gain an understanding of where to locate certain information.

NIMS Doctrine Supporting Guides & Tools: The National Integration Center develops supporting guides and tools to assist jurisdictions in their implementation of the National Incident Management System (NIMS).

Training: The NIMS Training Program defines the national NIMS training program. It specifies National Integration Center and stakeholder responsibilities and activities for developing, maintaining and sustaining NIMS training.

Resource Management & Mutual Aid: National resource management efforts aid a unified approach in building and delivering the core capabilities across all five mission areas (Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response and Recovery).  Effective resource management is founded on the guiding principles of the NIMS.

Implementation Guidance & Reporting: Federal Departments and agencies are required to make adoption of NIMS by local, state, territorial, and tribal nation jurisdictions a condition to receive Federal Preparedness grants and awards.

NIMS Alerts: The National Integration Center announces the release of new NIMS guidance, tools, and other resources through the distribution of NIMS Alerts.

FEMA NIMS Regional Contacts: The FEMA Regional NIMS Coordinators act as subject matter experts regarding NIMS for the local, state, territorial, and tribal nation governments within their FEMA Region, as well as for the FEMA Regional Administrator and staff.

Incident Command System Resources: The Incident Command System (ICS) is a fundamental element of incident management. The use of ICS provides standardization through consistent terminology and established organizational structures.

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